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Paintball guns: not just fun and games

By Audra Callowy
The Voice News

While most people think of paintball guns as fun and games, to the Army they represent another way to assist peacekeeping operations.

Last month, Picatinny Arsenal fulfilled the Army’s second urgent materiel release of the Individual Serviceman Nonlethal System, or ISNLS, FN 303, which is a semi-automatic less-lethal launcher that uses compressed air to fire non-toxic 8.5 gram, .68 caliber projectiles filled with paint and bismuth.

The shoulder-fired weapons have been deployed to troops for non-lethal crowd and riot control during detainee operations, explained Maj. Thomas Aarsen, assistant product manager for the office of Product Manager for Improvised Explosive Device Defeat and Protect Force.

While the ISNLS is somewhat similar to what one would find on a paintball course, Picatinny technical trainer Jeff Teats said a typical paintball is regulated at approximately 300-500 pounds per square inch, while the ISNLS is regulated at approximately 900 PSI.

“Basically the non-lethal launcher is like a paintball gun on steroids,” he said.

Aarsen said the increased non-lethal capability gives Soldiers another option to influence the actions of targeted personnel before the situation necessitates lethal force.

“It gives them the opportunity to identify intent and deter potential threats,” he said.

Teats added that the weapon supports Soldiers by allowing them to engage individuals in the crowd with paint, so instigators cannot later deny their part in a disturbance.

Additionally, the weapon keeps Soldiers safer by widening the distance between them and potentially hostile crowds.

With a range of around 80 meters, the item fulfills a range gap that previously existed in the Army’s non-lethal cache, explained ISNLS technical lead John Ackerman.

He said that previously, Soldiers had to be within 30- to 40-meters of a potential threat to affect it.

The FN303 provides Soldiers an item that can be used at longer distances “providing increased force protection to Soldiers and other individuals,” Ackerman said.

The ISNLS is a commercial-off-the-shelf item developed by Fabrique Nationale de Herstal, which Aarsen said was already being used by law enforcement agencies before it caught the interest of the Army.

Because the item was already developed, Ackerman said the Army saved time, which is crucial to the theaters of operations.

“It takes the government time to develop items, but if you can find commercial-off-the-shelf products that meet requirements, you can sometimes get the item into theater and validated quicker,” Ackerman said.

During the previous UMR in January 2005, approximately 80 ISNLS were fielded within 60 days of the requirement arriving to Picatinny. The initial UMR resulted from a critical need for non-lethal force at a detainee camp in Afghanistan.

The ISNLS is being overseen by the Office of the Project Manager for Close Combat Systems here.

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